Sparke Helmore Lawyers > Melbourne, Australia > Firm Profile

Sparke Helmore Lawyers

Australia > Insurance Tier 3

The commercial insurance and statutory lines team at Sparke Helmore Lawyers provides a comprehensive service to major domestic and international insurers, brokers, and multinational corporations and directors, across a wide range of issues in the insurance sphere. These include professional indemnity, financial lines, construction claims, personal injury, class actions, medical negligence, D&O liability, public liability and workers’ compensation. Led by national commercial insurance practice group leader Malcolm Cameron in Sydney and national statutory lines practice group leader James Johnson  in Melbourne, the group’s portfolio features household names such as McDonald’s and Insurance Australia. The team is supported at the Sydney office by liability claim expert Gillian Davidson and senior litigator John Coorey.

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‘This is a strong national team with extensive knowledge and capability around the country. Sparke Helmore are at the forefront of innovative thinking when it comes to their clients and their own thinking. They are great collaborators inviting clients to participate in their thinking as a business as well as in their capacity of partner. Their service to clients is thoughtful well-considered and deliberate with a clear focus on the goal.’ 

‘Kristina Miller is exceptional and professional and I enjoy working with Kristina as she is respectful to in-house counsel and the needs of the business. She will listen and understand and her knowledge of the law is impressive. She also has a team that follows her ethos and are true partners in our legal journey.’

‘Sparke Helmore understands the insurance industry like no other firm. They appreciate the commercial drivers that make an insurance business function, and they are able to provide advice that is both commercial and legally sound. Their product is well priced, without being “cheap”. They are a class act.’

‘Sparke Helmore in Brisbane provide robust and well-researched advice. The key component for me is that the firm has a focus on the commerciality of claims, and is cognisant of the balance between the costs and risks of running a defence versus the viability of a defence. Sparke Helmore always collaborate with me regarding the conduct of the claim, and address any concerns I may have with measured and reasoned discussion.’

‘They are technically excellent and commercial.’

‘Julian McGrath – extensive knowledge about relevant areas of law and our company; ability to adapt to our company changing how we do things.’

‘The lawyers are approachable, practical, and knowledgeable. Gillian Davidson is extremely experienced and always gets to the crux of the matter.’

Key clients

QBE Insurance (Australia) Limited

Berkley Insurance Australia and XL Insurance Company SE

McDonald’s Australia Limited

Insurance Australia Group t/as NRMA Insurance (CDW)

Work highlights

  • Advised QBE Insurance (Australia) Limited on a large construction liability matter in respect of Pile and Bucket (a piling and excavation contractor) in respect of a major Sydney property development.
  • Acting for Berkley Insurance Australia and XL Insurance Company SE as coverage counsel for two of the D&O excess layer insurers in relation to proceedings issued against various insured directors of Dick Smith.
  • Advised Insurance Australia Group t/as NRMA Insurance on a claim for personal injury by Tedmund Polglase who fell four metres through a railing on the Coffs Harbour Jetty onto hard sand below.

Australia > Intellectual property Tier 4

Sparke Helmore Lawyers advises on IP matters involving trade marks, copyright, patents, designs and trade secrets, with particular focuses on brand protection, breach of confidence, commercialisation, enforcement and domain name disputes for both domestic and international clients, including government agencies and local authorities. The practice also undertakes contentious mandates. Shannon Platt is group head for IP and the corporate and commercial practice. The practice group has also undergone some changes, with Dalvin Chien's March 2021 arrival from Norton Rose Fulbright following on from  Richard Chew's December 2020 move to K&L Gates.

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‘Have worked with them for many years, and all of their operations are excellent.’

‘Shannon Platt and her team are all very excellent, qualified and knowledgeable.’

Key clients

Allnex Resins Australia / Allnex Netherlands

APT Advanced Polymer Technology


Australia’s Oyster Coast

Bentleys Australia

Civic Transport Services


Clarence Valley Anglican School Council

Coal Services

Community First Credit Union

Council of the City of Shellharbour

Craveable Brands


Electrolux Home Products


Grant Bloodstock

Greencross Group

Goodlife Operations

Husqvarna Group

Industrial Galvanizers

James Cumming & Sons

Lidl Stiftung

Liquor Marketing Group

Little Wings

Liverpool City Council

Luk Fook Holdings

Maggie Sottero Designs


Meals on Wheels

Millennium & Copthorne International

National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Launch Transition Agency

NSW Government (Department of Communities and Justice)

Parramatta City Council

Regional Development Australia

Ricoh Company

Roche Group

Rural and Remote Medical Services

Share the Dignity

Sprint Horticulture

Take 3

Tomkins Commercial & Industrial Builders

Tsingtao Brewery Company

University of Technology Sydney

Wander Group

Yarra Valley Water Corporation

Work highlights

  • Acted for Community First Credit Union against Bendigo & Adelaide Bank in two parallel Federal Court proceedings concerning the monopoly asserted by Bendigo Bank in what CFCU considers to be descriptive words “COMMUNITY BANK”.
  • Acted for Little Wings, a not-for-profit organisation which applied to register its “LITTLE WINGS” trade mark in Australia.
  • Acted for Shellharbour City Council to successfully oppose trade mark applications by Bright Eyes Events for “WINGS OVER ILLAWARRA”, an annual aviation event hosted by Council.

Australia > Transport: shipping Tier 4

The marine and transport team at Sparke Helmore Lawyers advises marine insurers, ports, shipowners, charterers, transport operators, importers and exporters, and government agencies on a diverse array of shipping matters. These include procurement for vessel construction, leasing arrangements, marine pollution incidents, regulatory compliance, P&I matters, and hull and cargo liability insurance policies. Headed in Brisbane by marine and transport law authority Michelle Taylor, who joined the firm in November 2020 from Colin Biggers & Paisley, and supported by marine insurance specialist Natalia Hallum, the group’s portfolio features such clients as the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, the Port of Brisbane, and National Transport Insurance.

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Key clients

Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA)

Port of Brisbane

Northern Territory Department of Environment and Natural Resources

National Transport Insurance (NTI)

QBE Marine

Allianz Marine & Transit (AM&T)

Specialist Underwriting Agencies (SUA)

Work highlights

  • Acting for the AMSA in Federal Court litigation relating to the YM Efficiency incident, which concerns a shipowner’s liability for plastic pollution in the marine environment.
  • Acted for the Northern Territory Government in a Supreme Court special case, concerning charges issued against the master, owner and manager of the vessel MV Antung over an oil spill in the Darwin Harbour.
  • Advising the Port of Brisbane on port of refuge issues relating to the Maryam vessel.

Australia > Corporate and M&A Tier 6

Sparke Helmore Lawyers advises a wide range of clients from SMEs to blue-chip companies on transactions and broader corporate issues, including governance work and restructurings. The team also works on private equity investments, distressed situations and fund management issues. The team is led by Sydney-based Sally Weatherstone.

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Key clients

Tartana Resources Limited

PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP)

NET Modular

ACM Group Pty Ltd

Attune Hearing

Envest Pty Ltd

Partner Now

Work highlights

  • Advising the shareholders of Net Modular on its acquisition by UK-based Algeco Global.
  • Advised ACM Group on the sale of its A$400m debt ledger and assets to Collection House Limited.
  • Advised Envest on an investment into the client by Macquarie Capital.

Australia > Banking and finance

Expanded from a firm started in Newcastle by William Sparke in 1882, Sparke Helmore Lawyers provides comprehensive banking and finance services to multinational corporates, banks, non-bank lenders and other institutions seeking financing and security arrangements.

Australia > IT and telecoms

Sydney-based Dalvin Chien and Shannon Platt  head up the technology team at Sparke Helmore Lawyers, which has expertise in data and cyber security matters and transactions.

We’ve come a long way since our doors first opened in The Hunter in 1882. We’ve had an office in Sydney since the ‘60s and we recently opened our ninth office in Darwin. We cover five key areas of law – corporate and commercial, commercial insurance, government, statutory lines of insurance and workplace – with more than 30 specialised areas of expertise. We’re a truly national, full service and proudly Australian firm that delivers results through deep collaboration with our clients. Wherever our clients need us, that’s where we’ll be. Covering a big country needs a big team—we’re more than 950 people now and still growing. And in true Australian spirit, we’re friendly, approachable and easy to work with. And when you work with one of us, you get the expertise of all of us.

Corporate and commercial: Commercial acumen is really what we’re all about. Our corporate lawyers have worked in top tier Australian and global firms, as well as in industry, and have advised on some iconic corporate deals. That’s one of the reasons institutions, large corporates, SMEs and governments trust us. They know we focus our knowledge and skills to bring them practical advice that supports their strategies and objectives. Corporate and commercial legal issues don’t occur in isolation—so we don’t operate that way, either. When you work with our team, you work with all of Sparke Helmore. Under our roof, everything from construction to commercial litigation, mining to M&A, and insurance to workplace is covered.

Commercial insurance: More than half the lawyers in our firm live and breathe insurance. We defend claims and interpret policies across all product lines for more than 300 clients, including Australia’s largest insurers. Our practice is global and includes the London Market and Lloyd’s syndicates as well as global insurers. We act for some of Australia’s largest companies in relation to their retained risk. We also advise all levels of government on their commercial risk. Our clients extend to insurance broking industry and third party claims administrators. We are proud to be a member of Global Insurance Law Connect (GILC) as the sole Australian representative firm.

Government: Economic, demographic and social changes mean the business of government has never been more challenging. As people who used to work in government agencies, our national team is proud to support the important work of public servants as they shape the policies that change people’s lives. We understand government work—the time pressures, policy priorities and legislative constraints. It’s why we’re one of the three largest private legal service providers to the commonwealth government. We bring commercial, administrative law and dispute resolution expertise to help with complex, sensitive and high profile programs. Our advice provides policy makers with commercial and practical solutions for improving program management and policy outcomes.

Insurance statutory lines: If we know one thing for certain, it’s that the only constant is change. But when our already complex State and Commonwealth statutory regimes keep changing, it’s a perpetual compliance challenge for insurers and employers. We cover every Australian jurisdiction, defending statutory and common law actions across countless industries. We advise on claims resulting from stress, psychiatric illness, dust/asbestos disease, chemical toxicity and acoustic injury, fatal accident and dependency claims, and even claims involving catastrophic injury. Beyond individual claims, we look at the bigger picture—broader portfolio and claims management issues, including long tail claims. Insurers talk to us about maintaining their self-insurance licenses as well.

Workplace: Leaders need to spend their time leading and managers need to be effectively managing. Employment conflicts and safety issues can hugely impact time and resources, not to mention productivity and morale. Our team is highly regarded and respected for being the safe pair of hands organisations need to resolve workplace issues as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Our employment and safety experts advise executives, managers, government decision-makers and their organisations on small matters before they become big ones, and big matters before they become headlines. We provide common sense advice that deals with the root of the problem and delivers workable solutions. Collectively, our experience spans multiple industries and includes work with federal, state and local government and leading corporates.

Partner and Commercial Insurance National Practice Group Leader Malcolm
Partner and Statutory Line Insurance National Practice Group Leader James
Partner and Corporate & Commercial National Practice Group Leader Shannon
Partner and Government National Practice Group Leader Stuart
Partner and Workplace National Practice Group Leader Catherine
James Johnson photo James JohnsonPartner and National Practice Group Leader, specialising in Commonwealth Compensation and State…
Patrick McGrath photo Patrick McGrathPartner, with a focus on professional indemnity, construction and contract works, property…
Kerri Thomas photo Kerri ThomasPartner, focusing on professional indemnity, medical negligence and general liability.
Partners : 91
Lawyers (Special Counsel, Senior Associates, Associates and Lawyers) : More than 400
Other staff : More than 420
Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese)
Australia and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF)
Asia Pacific Loan Market Association
AMPLA Limited – the Resources and Energy Law Association
International Trade Mark Association (INTA)
Society of Construction Law